30 May 2013
Fiction, Romance novel
| 4/5 |
| Barbara Pym books, Other books|
An Unsuitable Attachment is a novel by Barbara Pym, written in 1963 and published posthumously in 1982.
This novel is notable as being the first of Pym's novels to be rejected by publishers after she had established herself as a novelist. The book was originally rejected by Cape, who had published Pym's first six novels. According to some accounts, the reason was its being "out of step with the racier literary climate of the sixties"; others say Cape and possible further publishers viewed it as commercially unviable, even when endorsed by Philip Larkin; - "It was a great pleasure and excitement to me to read An Unsuitable Attachment in typescript and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found it continuously amusing and interesting - I have tried to keep my eye open for anything that would suggest why Cape's should not publish it, and I am bound to say that it still seems a mystery to me." This began a period in the literary "wilderness" which ended only in 1978, shortly before the author's death. Pym herself was not satisfied with the work; in a letter to Larkin, she later agreed that the lead character, Ianthe, was "very stiff" and that she had originally intended John to be a "much worse" character.
Larkin wrote that he found himself "not caring very greatly for Ianthe...her decency and good breeding are stated rather than shown" and further observed, "I don't myself think that the number of the characters matters much; I enjoyed the book's richness in this respect. What I did feel was that there was a certain familiarity about some of them; Sophia and Penelope seemed to recall Jane and Prudence, and Mark Nicholas; Mervyn has something of Arthur Grampian, and of course we have been among the anthropologists before. What this adds up to is perhaps a sense of coasting - which doesn't bother me at all, but which might strike a critical publisher's reader - unsympathetic I mean rather than acute - as constituting 'the mixture as before'."
An Unsuitable Attachment Wikipedia
The plot concerns librarian Ianthe Broome, a well-bred young woman left in comfortable circumstances by her late parents. There is no shortage of "suitable" candidates for Ianthe's hand, notably Rupert Stonebird. It surprises no one more than Ianthe herself when she falls for the new library assistant, a young man of doubtful antecedents with no money to spare. Some of the action takes place against the backdrop of Rome, where Ianthe and a group of other churchgoers are taking a sightseeing holiday. Being apart from John makes Ianthe realise how much she really cares for him, and on her return she agrees to his proposal, scandalizing her friends and family. As they settle down to their new life together, Rupert begins to recognise the charms of Penelope, another member of the community who has long been attracted to him.